On November 18, 2010, Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) sponsored a National Day of Action to raise the profile of “wage theft” — the practice of illegally underpaying or failing to pay workers. More than 35 groups across the country held events as part of IWJ’s National Day of Action, including groups in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Madison, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
IWJ called for the National Day of Action to highlight what it views as an “ongoing crisis” in wage theft. IWJ defines “wage theft” to include any number of violations of wage and hour laws, including violations of minimum wage laws, failing to pay time-and-a-half for overtime work, forcing workers to work “off the clock,” withholding final paychecks, and misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid minimum wage and overtime requirements. IWJ claims that the “average low-wage worker” loses $2,600 per year to wage theft.
According to IWJ, several events were organized in response to its campaign. In Washington, D.C., DC Jobs with Justice organized a press conference to call upon the Metropolitan Police Department to proactively investigate complaints of wage theft; in Chicago, 40 people gathered at a car wash to show support for the cause of a low-wage worker; in Madison, community members, faith leaders, and low-wage workers gathered at the Dane County Courthouse to rally against “wage theft”; and in Los Angeles, low-income workers and their advocates rallied in front of Los Angeles City Hall to focus attention on the issue. Workers Interfaith Network performed a skit, which involved unwinding a string of $20 bills, during a press event in front of the Memphis Federal Building.
IWJ’s advocacy underscores the fact that wage & hour litigation exposures continue to be an area of intense focus by the plaintiffs’ bar.